News / Middle East

    Beirut Bounces Back from Civil War

    James Brooke
    Only 20 years ago, Beirut was in ruins after its civil war. Today, it’s the turn of neighboring Syria to go through civil war. But the rebirth of Beirut, Lebanon’s capital, shows how cities can bounce back.

    Beirut's old Holiday Inn, pockmarked by bullet holes, reminds visitors how gun battles once raged along the Green Line that divided Muslim West from Christian East.

    One generation later, street cafes are filled. Beirut’s new cityscape is one of elegant shop windows, high-rise apartment and office towers - and construction cranes. Beirut has been largely rebuilt.

    Oliver Martin-Robinson, a British analyst here, watches high-rises sprout up. “There’s a big boom in Lebanon in building, and it’s been going on for quite a while,” says Martin-Robinson. “It’s generally focused on luxury properties, luxury office space as well in downtown.”

    Ronnie Chatah, a city historian, leads Walk Beirut, a city tour. He has a hard time finding buildings surviving from the Ottoman and French colonial periods of a century ago. “There are pockets within Beirut, they’re called traditional quarters, there is some belated restoration,” said Chatah. “There isn’t much of it.  I think reconstruction, or at least redevelopment took precedence over restoration, and I think at a loss to Beirut’s history, or at least its architectural history.”

    • An overview of Beirut, Lebanon, which bounced back partly because of its location on the water. (VOA/V. Undritz)
    • Beirut buildings rise higher and higher as everyone struggles to get a sea view. (VOA/V. Undritz)
    • Building cranes punctuate Beirut's skyline. (VOA/V. Undritz)
    • Place de l’Etoile was once a sniper’s alley of ravaged buildings. The square has been painstaking reconstructed, including the French colonial clock tower. (VOA/V. Undritz)
    • A boy with a toy gun poses with a Lebanese Army soldier, who patrols Place de l’Etoile. (VOA/V. Undritz)
    • A decaying Ottoman-era house across a street from a well maintained one. (VOA/V. Undritz)
    • Construction cranes and a bombed out, egg-shaped movie theater near the blue domed Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque, which was completed in 2007. (VOA/V. Undritz)
    • The destruction of a French colonial government building from the 1920s during the civil war uncovered Roman baths from 2,000 years ago. (VOA/V. Undritz)
    • With the building frenzy reshaping Beirut, it takes a little looking to find the archaeological layer of the 1975-1990 Lebanese Civil War, only one generation ago. (VOA/V. Undritz)
    • The scarred hulk of the old Holiday Inn, with bushes sprouting out of the old Sky Bar, looms over downtown Beirut – a reminder of the 15-year civil war that ended in 1990. (VOA/V. Undritz)
    • A high end boutique near the old Holiday Inn, where the Lebanese Army parks armored personnel carriers. (VOA/V. Undritz)

    Many luxury shopping malls and million-dollar apartments were built for ‘Gulfies.’ These wealthy tourists from the Persian Gulf came to enjoy Beirut’s lifestyle - historically tolerant and sometimes hedonistic.

    But after civil war broke out in Syria, reports of violence scared away tourists. The governments of Gulf nations and of Turkey have warned their citizens not to visit Beirut this year because of the threat of spillover violence from Syria.

    Martin-Robinson again: “Occupancy rates are generally very low in downtown.  You can see that in the fact that there just aren’t many people around here.  A lot of it is owned by people from the Gulf.  As you know, they’ve been staying away, so the places have remained empty.”

    Despite war next door, buildings keep rising in Beirut.

    Chatah, the tour guide, says it is a mix of location and of Lebanese entrepreneurial spirit. “Beirut’s location is its beauty and its curse at the same time," says Chatah.  Yes it’s on the Mediterranean. It has this beautiful backdrop - Mount Lebanon, snowcapped mountain. And at the same time, this is where most of the Middle East wars are fought - here in Beirut.”

    One stop on his tour is a newly discovered, 2,000-year-old Roman bath. It had been hidden for centuries, most recently under a French colonial government building.

    Since the Roman era, Beirut has gone through earthquakes, wars and invasions. Each time, “the Diamond of the Middle East” bounces back, with a sparkle.

    You May Like

    Chechen Suspected in Istanbul Attack, but Questions Remain

    Turkish sources say North Caucasus militants involved in bombing at Ataturk airport, but name of at least one alleged attacker raises doubts

    With Johnson Out, Can a New ‘Margaret Thatcher’ Save Britain?

    Contest to replace David Cameron as Britain’s prime minister started in earnest Thursday with top candidates outlining strategy to deal with Brexit fallout

    US Finds Progress Slow Against Human Trafficking in Africa

    Africa continues to be a major source and destination for human trafficking of all kinds -- from forced labor to sexual slavery, says State Department report

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Eitheri
    X
    Jim Malone
    June 29, 2016 6:16 PM
    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora